Culture: An evolutionary view? – An eight part series with Dr Robert Long on culture and learning (8/8)

July 27, 2023



Another car cast where Dr Rob Long, Dr Nippin Anand and Dr Pedro Ferreira explore briefly the evolutionary perspective about culture. Much of what we hear about culture and more specifically safety culture, is grounded in social science. Here is a different view on (safety)culture. Not better or worse, simply some alternative views and complimentary thoughts

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Nippin Anand  00:00

Hello and welcome to embracing differences with me Nippin Anand, founder of novellus, a podcast series dedicated to understanding different perspectives about how we as human beings, or rather, social beings make decisions. The podcast series draws from different disciplines including religion, mythology, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, biology, neurosciences and stem, making it truly transdisciplinary meaning transporting her rather travelling across disciplines. The idea is not to claim that one method or discipline is superior to the other, but to hold competing disciplines, competing values, diverse perspectives, intention. And when that happens, we create space for doubt and reflection. The idea is to enjoy travelling and the ambiguity that comes with it. Experiencing dissonance, discomfort, how else do we learn? This is a podcast about understanding culture, safety, culture, and how we as human beings learn with Dr. Robert long. In this podcast, we explored the relationship between culture and evolution, or culture and biology. Another podcast or podcast with Dr. Robert long, myself and Dr. Pedro Ferreira, explain, explore briefly the evolutionary perspective about culture. Now much of what we hear about culture, and more specifically, the idea of safety culture is grounded in social theories in social sciences, hence a different view on culture and safety culture, not better or worse, simply some alternative views and complimentary thoughts. And I hope you enjoyed the session.


Rob Long  01:58

What do we call these podcasts? By the way, in a car like this, because we shouldn’t call them we should call it a car cast?


Nippin Anand  02:09

Money? Maybe? No, maybe I was thinking. A journey with gambling said to body. Yeah, yeah. That that might be one. Yes. Captain said to where the and us on a learning journey. Yeah, that’s that would be good.


Rob Long  02:28

You know, the funny thing is Nippin about faith and trust is, if I tried to advise this man driving us here in this traffic on one thing, I would kill us all? Oh, yes. Yes. Yes, absolutely. How dare I doubt. Yes, he knows what he’s doing.


Nippin Anand  02:45

I think this should set the context really well for this podcast? Because the question is the question I want to ask you. The reason I want to ask this question, Rob, is that it’s intriguing how much we talk about culture and safety culture, as a social construct, as something that should be understood to the disciplines of social sciences. Yes, but very little is understood about culture and safety culture, from a biological from an evolutionary perspective. And I think I think that’s the key to it. We just don’t get it. I think it’d be good to hear your wisdom Rob to say, what do you think about this idea?


Rob Long  03:21

Well, to be a physical human being is to be a vulnerable, biological social being. And fundamentally, we need to accept that vulnerability, that fallibility as a blessing. It is not an impediment. fallibility is not the enemy. In fact, if we make fallibility and vulnerability, the enemy, we spend our whole lies trying to control the world we live in. And in fact, it doesn’t become life, you’re not really living, if that’s what you’re doing. So in our physical being, of course, we, we all have our ailments, we all have our things. And we even define wellness and health in such a strange way, as well, as if we’re not vulnerable, because it doesn’t look like we are. Yep. And so because I look fine, I must be healthy. Yep. Or because I’m, which is crazy, because this vulnerability, I mean, I’ve a vulnerability you can’t see. I was born with a disease I inherited from my father. And, you know, that’s very, very common. And in the DNA I received, I had no choice in that either. So I received this vulnerable ability as a gift. Now, a lot of people don’t do that because harm and suffering can’t be a gift, harm and suffering must be the enemy, we must fight. So we must count the number of times people have been harmed, and then try to reduce that harm. But it’s never about harm. It’s selective harm. It’s a very, very subjective notion of what it is to be harmed. So I I see vulnerability, and frailty, and fallibility, as the blessing of living. It helps you to live life to its full, it helps you experience life, for all its richness. I stopped fighting, I stopped controlling. And it’s like, we’re in that church that yesterday with that frail little woman. I mean, she must have, I think she she can’t and weighed in on 30 kilos. And when I look at the photos of me with her, I just think, Oh, I’m just too big, you know, I’m a huge monster. But her frailty in that moment, in when we had and she couldn’t speak. So she was, she was speech impaired. Her, her frailty was a blessing to us, because she wanted to connect. And she used hand signs and facial gestures. And she cried. And she loved that moment, and we knew she did. But the reason why it was so special, is we connected in our frailties. She also made me feel frail, she bowed down on the ground and touched My Feet, which in our western culture is deeply embarrassing, because it’s the ultimate act in humility. But accepting humility is, this is something the arrogant people in the West can’t do. Because again, we reject frailty. We hide death, for example, we don’t, you know, we hide these people. We hide these people off in hospitals, and all this sort of stuff. And we live in this, we live in this world of denial. And it’s a clean world. It’s a controlling world, but it’s an unreal world. And then the sad thing is, is when we finally get to a stage, when our parents are going to die, or our good friend gets cancer, and they’re going to die, we actually don’t know how to deal with it. We don’t know how to deal with suffering. We don’t know how to deal with harm. We don’t know how to deal with pain. And so we invent all these drugs to suppress all these things. And again, these are distractions from life. So, yes, I see fallibility as the blessing of humanity, not its enemy.


Nippin Anand  08:12

And why is it so important to understand culture, Rob? This this view, the fallibility vulnerability, why is it so important to understand human culture?


Rob Long  08:23

Because, because, as I said before, why are you here on the planet? It goes to meaning and purpose. You know, I’m not, look, the more I try to control what’s around, the less I really live and experience life. Life is an existential experience, it’s a gift for a short period of time, you might have three days, you might have 30 years, you might have 75 years, you certainly won’t have 250 years. So at some stage, we need to read greed. We need to read Becker’s little book is a denial of death. Yes. Because, you know, we have this fake existence, you know, and I watch all this nonsense about zero harm and, and all this stuff, you know. It’s like, imagine, you imagine if we had signs up all over Chennai, over the traffic, and in the motto was zero harm. Look what you’re looking at now. None of these people are thinking about, how will I be harmed? They’re thinking about how do I get to work? How do I navigate and negotiate the flow? And there’s a temple there, and I’ll just drop into that on the way I’ll, I’ll breathe in. And I’ll my eyes and my ears and my nose and my mouth and my heart will take in that blessing. And then I take it on my life. That’s how these people live. Indeed. Yeah, yeah. And they live life, they know how to live life.


Nippin Anand  10:14

And I think, also, Rob, just to add to what you said, I think that the key to understanding culture is is we go back to the same thing is to is to come to terms with the idea, even from a biological perspective that people here are not shocked, they’re not surprised that they, when when they experience something like we do in this setting, so their blood pressure doesn’t go high, their breathing is quite normal, not their heart rate is pretty much in control, as they are navigating as they’re as they’re moving around in this place. And whereas, sorry, whereas somebody like you and me, would, would feel very, very uncomfortable. Because, as from even from a simple evolutionary perspective, or from an evolutionary perspective, we are not ready. And we are totally out of control what we sometimes call, we are surprised, we are shocked. Yes, well, these people are not. So I think so I think this is what is key to understanding from from my perspective, to understand things from a biological perspective, from an evolutionary perspective, what is considered normal in a particular setting.


Rob Long  11:22

Yeah. And in in, and but in the Western world, we have an epidemic in stress in the wealthiest countries in the world, we have an epidemic in taking anti anxiety medication


Nippin Anand  11:34

got to correct. Can you elaborate on that? I think that’s a really good point.


Rob Long  11:37

You know, even in my country in Australia, where we say, We’re the lucky country, and you know, we have every blessing in the world, it’s only material blessing, we have an epidemic of anti anxiety medication. Now, how do you explain that? And the funny thing is, they don’t have that here. No, they don’t have every reason that poverty is off the planet. The the you would think this is stressful, right? Yes. But they don’t have an anxiety issue.


Nippin Anand  12:09

No, no, that just don’t have it. No. That is a very, very important point. Because people here are more relational. They relate with each other, they have a conversation with each other, they don’t go home with those with those. Everyone has anxiety everyone goes through a lot during the day. But this whole idea of accepting the or, or coming to terms with that we are social beings. And at the end of the day, we talk we discuss Yes, and we have conversations. And that is that is one of the key reasons why we don’t have as many suicides here as we do in the Western world.


Rob Long  12:43

And we live life. Yes, we accept life and the being of life. And, you know, some people in the West would say, Oh, this is all wrong. But that that is simply all that is, is the suppression of one myth for another myth. That’s all it is. But the evidence shows that whatever methodology we’re living by, in the West, isn’t working. Because it just doesn’t make sense. I can live in I can live in a million dollar home, have 1000 friends on Facebook Messenger. I can be on my little phone all day as a as a 15 year old girl, and yet at the same time, beat be nearly dying of anorexia or bulimia.


Nippin Anand  13:27

It’s so sad, Rob, I keep getting these these emails and calls from ships. And one of the latest one being that a ship captain actually jumped overboard, because he was he was relentlessly being pestered, and pressurised that there is an inspection coming up in the next boat, and we want no deficiencies whatsoever. And so at one point, he just gave in and gave up and he just quietly went and jumped overboard. And so he died. He died. Yes. And so there’s this search for efficiency, the search for safety of more safety, more quality to search more reliability. Yes, more reliability is actually we don’t consider the wellness and the well being of the person No, which is why it is so important to understand human culture, from from a biological or from an evolutionary logical view, is


Pedro Ferreira  14:21

nothing. The saddest thing about that in what you just mentioned, is the world keeps going forward in the conviction that the problem was this person, this person had other problems. The problem was not the system the pressure that was put on him. Yes, the problem was the person. Yes, yes. And in fact, that comes out of it increasingly reinforced the belief that the problem was a person. There was something wrong with this person. Hence, the person killed him or herself. Yes.


Nippin Anand  14:53

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And that goes back to the idea that we have to create a narrative to console ourselves and Come back to what we consider is okay to move on now. Yeah. Such a good point, Pedro. I think we are almost there. We had such a good to podcast. Thank you very much gentlemen. Do you have any questions, any feedback, any comments, any criticism, you can always write to us, you can write to me personally, at support at novella storage solutions. You can also leave a message for us on our website, the novellus.solutions. You can email me personally at Nippin.anand@novellus. solutions, and you can find me on LinkedIn. Until then, have a good day. For those of you who are interested to understand cultural safety, culture and the concept of learning, or rather how we as human beings learn, we have a workshop coming up in Stavanger in Norway, from the fourth to the sixth of October. The the idea of this workshop is to give some practical methods and tools using the framework of social psychology of risk to help people become our I would say invite the same leaders become a little bit more deliberate and strategic about understanding and influencing culture. So you can expect a lot of practical exercises, group work, tools, methods that would actually help you to understand culture. I hope you can join us there is all the details on our website novellus.solutions/events, please check it out. And we hope you can make it and we would love to have you with us